Friday, January 27, 2012

Share the Truth About School Funding!

I’ve addressed the need to keep the education funding debate honest in previous postings, but I’d like to retrace my steps to add a bit of additional information.

In the Governor’s budget address, in his State of the State address, and frequently since he cited the JLARC Review of State Spending to justify his proposed education funding levels saying:

“… in K-12 education, according to the JLARC report, total funding has grown 41% over the last decade, while student enrollment has only gone up 6%.”

VEA members hear this and wonder why their classes are bigger, supplies are in short supply, and their salaries have, in most places, been cut or are stagnant.

This nugget from the Senate Finance Committee comes explains why reality does not comport with the Governor’s statement:

"GF and NGF Appropriations Over Ten Years (GF and NGF) –FY 2002 to FY 2011. Per JLARC’s annual report on State Spending, total Direct Aid (GF and NGF) increased 41 percent while enrollment increased 6 percent and inflation increased 23 percent. This results in an inflation-adjusted per pupil increase of about 12 percent over ten years."

However, Page 14 of the JLARC State Spending report the Governor references also offers a telling analysis:

“DOE (Direct Aid) … was not among the ten fastest growing agencies …, having grown more slowly (21%) than inflation, which grew 23% over the period.” (Table references are deleted.)

The report points out that the implementation of the federal mandates associated with NCLB and special education requirements had a substantial impact on the cost of public education.

Page 3 says, “… this report does not address the merits or adequacy of funding for governmental functions, agencies, or programs.”

Let’s look at the facts. Virginia’s per-pupil spending from state sources ranks 35th in the nation (CQ Education State Ranking 2011-2012). Our average teacher salary is $4,510 below the national average (CQ Education State Ranking 2011-2012). But, we are the 7th wealthiest state in per capita personal income (CQ State Rankings 2011).

In year two of the proposed budget we will be running our schools on $547 less per-pupil than in FY 2009. We have 2,116 fewer teachers in our schools today (VA DOE) than we did in 2009 , but we have about 45,000 more students (Weldon Cooper Center).

Spread the truth as you talk to folks this weekend, and have a good one.